Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 16

A former top official of Chechnya’s Moscow-appointed administration–one of several to have lost faction fights with the head of the administration Akhmad Kadyrov–died on April 30, less than a month after his ouster. Ruslan Tsakaev, former minister of the interior for Chechnya, passed away in Stavropol, reportedly from a massive heart attack.

An April 29 article in Moskovskie novosti shed light on Tsakaev’s struggles. The weekly’s correspondent, Valery Vyzhumovich, depicted Tsakaev’s departure and the appointment of his successor, Alu Alkhanov, as yet another victory for Kadyrov in his ongoing campaign to “to install his own people in crucial positions.” In a conversation with journalists–as it turned out, one of the last in his life–Tsakaev said that the real reason for his resignation was the fact that “it was very difficult for me to find a common language with Mr. Kadyrov. All of my decisions, especially those which involved personnel, met with resistance.”

The key disagreement between the two, according to Vyzhumovich’s account, was that Tsakaev considered to be “unacceptable” the recruitment of former rebel guerrillas to serve as policemen in the pro-Moscow administration. Kadyrov, by contrast, eagerly encouraged such recruits on the grounds that they are intimately familiar not only with the secret paths in Chechnya’s forests but with the various rebel warlords.

Vyzhumovich reported that there are still “five thousand Chechens who have not laid down their arms” and that the republic’s new interior minister is ready to bring them into the local police if the Kremlin should decide to offer a broad amnesty. But still opposing that idea, he wrote, is Said Peshkhoev, the former head of the Chechen Interior Ministry. Peshkoev has been identified by other observers as a potential presidential candidate for Chechnya, and, according to Vyzhumovich, is now serving as deputy to President Putin’s representative for the southern federal okrug. Vyzhumovich quoted Peshkhoev as protesting: “How can one provide arms to those who just yesterday were committing crimes with weapons in their hands? The idea that their military experience could be useful in the fight with their former comrades is nonsense.”

The Moskovskie novosti journalist evidently agrees with Peshkhoev’s view. According to his account, the experience of the 1999 amnesty showed that, after receiving positions in the police force, former rebels used their new weapons and government credentials to conduct criminal activities and wage inter-clan wars. In Vyzhumovich’s opinion, however, for Kadyrov the main goal is to create his own personal army–a crucial instrument in the republic’s upcoming presidential election. The head of the administration is now seeking to place his own creature in command of Chechnya’s OMON special-police force, thus eliminating yet another obstacle to the consolidation of his power within the republic.